My heart is bleeding, and I am so sad as I write this. I despair watching the news and seeing what is happening in Nigeria.
About two weeks ago, we were in Austria attending the international fixtures with friendly matches against Algeria and Tunisia, when the whole #EndSARS protests started in Nigeria. Some of our players responded to it and posted their support on social media.
I was asked by a few media people why we did not, collectively as a team, seek to make a stand at the friendly game to want to join the protest.
I must say I did not realise the gravity of what it was until later. Yes we hear about police brutality in Nigeria. Just like the Americans and the Brits have fought social injustice and police unfair profiling and brutality against a certain group of people.
But the stories that started to emerge out of Nigeria showed that this was at a different level and something needed to be done.
The youth of Nigeria, supported by many high profile celebrity personnel, launched a hashtag campaign and spread the word calling on government to End the SARS arm of the Nigerian Police.
Street protests were carried out and we were seeing a ramping up of support and signatories for the clamour for the scrapping of the said SARS. Government of Nigeria responded somewhat but the youth were not convinced. And they set about further protests – supposedly peacefully to drive the change that is required.
This is the fundamental right of citizens, to conduct protests and show their displeasure at all times. There is always a protest and a march and a convergence of one set of people or the other outside the Houses of Parliament in London at any given time – a protest at, for or against one thing or the other. So, the fact that the youth of Nigeria want to air their grievances on matters is no bad thing at all.
Where I start to weep is the point where I ask the question – at which point, for what reason and to what end did it turn to a platform to start killing people, to start burning fellow citizens’ property and inflicting pain on each other? Is this still part of the protests? What will the end result be when this dust finally settles?
It pains that Nigeria is in upheaval. It pains that lives are being lost. It hurts that the whole purpose for which the protests were initiated has been negated by acts of violence and thoughtlessness.
And what is worse is that one does not even know what to say to what group. The looters who are inflicting these pains and are disrupting the peace will probably not read this….so we can’t appeal to them to stop. The police who are being accused of shooting and killing civilians will claim to be acting to protect law and order (by shooting live ammunition though? Please, No!).
So when you are faced with a situation, and you know what is wrong but can’t right what is wrong, yet can’t advise for people to be resigned to what is wrong and yet can’t push them to do things to make it right, then the heart bleeds.
There is the need to shift the mindset in Nigeria. A mindset shift is required. Something is not right, and it has to be sometime. Whether it is the protests that will effect the change, or the sudden realisation by the powers that be that something is needed to empower and engage the population meaningfully, something has got to give.
We certainly need the youth to be more involved in what is going to be the shaping of the future of the country. But with violence? Most definitely not.
So we need to separate the many groups – the genuine protesters who want peaceful change; the so-called hoodlums who have taken to looting and burning properties down; the heavy handed police personnel who have allegedly resorted to shooting and killing protesters; and the government authorities that are required to listen to the calls and cries.
Let the peaceful ones stay peaceful. Two wrongs never make a right, so attacking the attackers will not see them achieve their aim.
Let everyone stay safe and far away from violence. There is no point losing lives to a cause where there will be grief at the end of what might be a successful drive.
It is imperative that we all look out for one another, and hope that the country comes out on the other side, with desired result and success, that life can return to normal with minimal casualties.
My heart is bleeding now, but I am hoping that things will improve and I can have a happy heart knowing that peace has achieved and delivered desired change in the mindset of the Nigerian – for now and into the foreseeable future.
For now, please let all stay safe, and air our grievances with safe precautions at all times.